Dec. 23rd, 2013

deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
Kirkus Reviews reviewers are anonymous, and I like it that way. For one thing, it means that we speak with an editorial voice; when the incomparable Vicky Smith changes my reviews (always for the better), it means she's doing so with the voice of the publication.

Famously, our reviews are anonymous because they give the reviewers (in the very small world where so many publishers, authors, editors, agents, reviewers, and librarians know each other, smaller now in the days of the Internet) the freedom to be frank. Some, whose opinions I do not share, think that we are infamously cruel. The Kirkus folks I know certainly don't think of ourselves this way. Rather, we know that our reviews are being read by people with limited budgets and limited time, not just readers but librarians and teachers with small selection budgets, and we are determined to give those Kirkus Reviews readers all the tools they need to make the right purchasing choices. And yes, sometimes this means we write reviews authors don't like. The children's book review world has a partially true reputation of operating under the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" rubric. This is most apparent with journals such as The Horn Book Magazine, which dedicates almost every one of its limited pages to books it thinks excels. While this serves one purpose for potential customers of reviews, Kirkus Reviews serves a different one, and I'm glad they both exist.

Anyway, when I first started reviewing for Kirkus Reviews, I would occasionally go seek out the social media presence of authors about whose books I had been ... not as kind as the authors probably would have wanted me to be. I'm not quite sure what experience I was seeking out. It wasn't schadenfreude or gloating, because I had nothing against these authors and certainly no desire to cause them pain or financial harm. I suppose it was a desire to see my mark in the world in some small way. I've long since stopped doing that; the point of our reviews is not a relationship with the author, but a qualitative description of the book in hopes that we might help find the right reader for the right book. In general I have thoroughly mixed feelings about the now-thoroughly shattered wall between readers and authors, and especially between authors and book bloggers. I apologize for thinking aloud in reader response terms, but I feel like the transaction between reader and story is fundamentally changed when the reader is constantly aware of the author.

But I do confess I still have one small social media bit of spying that I sometimes do. Occasionally, long after I have reviewed a book -- and not when I have something else by the same author in my pool -- I will go look at the blog of an author whose work I starred or otherwise kvelled about. If the author doesn't mention Kirkus Reviews, I am perfectly happy. And if they mention the review in a way that shows they are thinking about the effect on sales, that doesn't really affect me one way or the other. But sometimes I go to an author's blog and their response to a review I wrote is some variant of "They liked my baby! Those famously picky people liked my baby!" or "Wow, this one sentence in the review shows that what they loved about my book is what I love about my book!" And then I think, you know, Author, my goal was not to make you happy. In fact my goal was to take the ways in which you had given me joy (by writing the book), and convince as many people as possible to share the experience. But the fact, Author, that I gave you such joy -- it rebounds back onto me. ♥ Floating hearts and kittens for everyone. ♥
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